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March 30, 2002


Top 10 Movies of 2001

Top Ten Films Of 2001
by Amy

Mulholland Drive
With Mulholland Drive, David Lynch has reached a new emotional level, and developed a tenderness that was lacking in many of his other films. The relative convention of the first section of the story (linear storyline, accessible characters, nobody smearing lipstick all over their face) seemed to throw some viewers off when confronted with the fragmented and nightmarish last 45 minutes. Multiple viewings help. Many of the themes Lynch attempts to break open in Lost Highway (unsuccessfully) and Blue Velvet (usually successfully) crop up again here -- dreams of a new identity, lost love, betrayal, the slow agonizing death of ideals, and the exploration of identity and transformation through split characters -- making it kind of like David Lynch's Greatest Hits, but the end result is more cohesive, evocative, and just plain beautiful than his earlier attempts. Also has some outstanding love/sex scenes -- rarely do films manage to make two characters' almost immediate passion for each other convincing. This one does.

Ghost World
The perfect antidote for Bring It On. Terry Zwigoff's second feature tells the teen malcontent story like it is. This film also remembers that a lot about being an 18 year old is that you are really bored a lot of the time, but makes watching the 18 year olds somehow not boring, and also deeply hilarious.

In the Mood For Love
A film about a tension that its two main characters (whose unseen spouses are having an affair) usually seem unaware of, In the Mood For Love is more about what doesn't happen than what does. Maggie Cheung's outfits and physical manners evoke a Hong Kong that I suspect no longer exists, and helped me understand just exactly why the two cuckolded spouses never have the kind of relationship that they would in a U.S. film. Oh, what might have been.

The Royal Tenenbaums
Not as good as Rushmore, I guess, but pretty much whatever Wes Anderson puts out in a given year is going to wind up on a list like this. Family dysfunction that takes its lead from the opening sentence of Anna Karenina. The way that Gene Hackman, as the son-of-a-bitch (but not asshole) patriarch, delivers lines that shift from ingratiating and sincere to mean and vengeful in seconds. This film's greatest strength might be design. New York never looked so simultaneously "modern" (as in The Modern Age) and a shamble of crumbling decay. The interiors of the Tenenbaum house are just spectacular*, particularly the Game Closet, the inside of the tent, and Ben Stiller's childhood bedroom. Also Gwyneth Paltrow (!) was hilarious with her poor little secret cigarettes and droopy eyes. The montage of her numerous sexual indiscretions with "Judy Is A Punk" on the soundtrack was a moment of gloriousness.

The Man Who Wasn't There
Is there anyone who isn't a fan of the Coen Brothers? I sure as hell am. I think this film is best thought of as a portrait of a man who is stuck, and the quiet, hardly perceptible desperation with which he tries to bring about change. Like David Lynch, the Coen Brothers are not really known for their emotional depth, but this film is a totally different story. Heartbreak and devastation. Maybe someday some clever director won't make Billy Bob Thornton wear a wig.

Moulin Rouge
Almost didn't make this list, but I'm going to commit to you, Moulin Rouge, and give you the love you deserve. Was the first 20 minutes too much to take? Oh, poor little movie-goers, feeling all over stimulated and icky. This movie was a cardio-vascular workout, it was over the top and ridiculous, it was more surprising and took more chances than anything else I've seen all year. It included Nicole Kidman singing "Gorecki" by Lamb, and also music from The Sweet. Even my cold dead stone of a heart was glowing.

This did come out in 2001, remember? Maybe now Guy Pearce will get some more attention from Hollywood -- what does this guy need to do?! Sliding into the logic of this movie, and finding the humor in Leonard's bottomless lack of self-knowledge was pure pleasure. This movie seems to either make you feel really smart or really stupid. The unreliable narrator is one of my favorite devices -- Memento pulled the rug out from under us so many times, we started to kind of like it.

Lord of the Rings
Beautiful to look at, and could anybody not get caught up in the Epic Struggle of Good and Evil? This film was just so adorable, kind of like Fried Green Tomatoes for boys. Lots of bonding, hugging, supporting of each other -- so cute. Not sure if it really deserves to be on this list, as I can't think of anything else to say about it.

Our Song
Jim McKay was one to watch after Girls Town, which pretty much blew everybody away, though made the mistake of casting people like Lili Taylor in the role of a pregnant teenage foul-mouthed city girl. I mean, there are real teenagers out there, many of them excellent actors. He came through all the way in Our Song, which again focuses on three high school girls, this time living in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, who face the end of a summer, after which they will attend different high schools. The girls are starting to drift apart. The futures that they all see (or don't see) for themselves are echoed in many of the other women living in their housing project. Kerry Washington has some scenes with each of her parents that are as good as anything you will ever see. She's in a few movies coming out in 2002 -- hopefully somebody has made good use of her after McKay recognized what she could do.

In The Bedroom
Way too many critics gave away several of this movie's plot points, but the hallmark of a good movie is that it doesn't matter. In The Bedroom should maybe be the film that screenwriting students watch when they study a unit in character development. First you think it's about one thing, then you think it's about another thing, and then you realize it's about another thing. I was blown away by how creepy a movie could be about more typically cuddly themes like the things that define a relationship and what holds a marriage together. Plus it totally made me want to move to Maine. The brief montage that sets the scene in the Old Orchard Beach section was so dead on, Todd Field obviously loves the half of each year he lives up in Maine with his family.

The Australians are taking over the world. The interconnectedness of the characters' lives in Lantana makes it seem like it's going to be a P.T. Anderson rip-off (which wouldn't be so bad, really) but instead, this movie goes really, really deep, instead of broad. If nobody else but Anthony LaPaglia was even in this one, it would probably still be on this list. His creation of a character who is miserable in every single aspect of his life, yet seems somehow unaware of it, is so layered and nuanced, let's hope he never has to do another cop movie in Hollywood. Wait, but he plays a cop in this movie too. Anyway, this film seems to be about what can happen when we aren't careful with each other, when we don't take some care with the people that we ostensibly love.


OK, so there are 11. What are you going to do?

* My good old friend ADM first pointed out to me that his favorite part of TRT was the set design. Thanks for your insights, ADM.

**Amy wanted me to tell you that she saw Gosford Park, and it bumps Lantana off the list. -ADM

categories: Movies
posted by adm at 5:02 PM | #